If you are thinking about forgiving someone, be encouraged because it is the first step in healing your pain. At the same time, do not be discouraged if your offender rejects your attempts to reconcile and forgive. Unwelcoming responses may be a harsh reality.
My brother is in his 40’s and never met his father. Like most men in this position, he’s had a desire to try to locate him and reconcile. He feels he’s already forgiven his father for abandoning him, but he still wants to make contact and verbally seek reconciliation and forgiveness.
I asked my brother, “If you find your father, what do you want to ask him?” My brother said he wants to ask why his father left him and chose not to be in his life. That response was not surprising. Quite naturally, we want answers when someone hurts us and we have a desire to know “why.” I probed further and asked my brother additional questions to get him thinking about some things he may not have considered. I asked him the following:
- How will you feel if you find your father, but he does not want to speak with you?
- How will you feel if he does not give you a reasonable excuse for abandoning you?
- How will you feel if he does not appear sorry or remorseful for not being in your life?
My brother, in a very somber voice said, ”I don’t know because I didn’t think about all of that.” My questions were not meant to discourage him from attempting to contact his father. The questions were meant for him to consider that his father may not have the same longing for reconciliation and forgiveness that he does. If anyone is seeking reconciliation, this is a harsh reality they may have to deal with.
But, exactly how do you deal with someone rejecting your attempts to reconcile and forgive? How could this make anyone feel good about forgiving? The answer is, “forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a choice.” Once you choose to forgive, your feelings toward the matter will work out over time, as God works on softening your heart and healing your pain. But, if you stay in a state of anger and choose not to forgive, your heart will never change and your pain will never go away.
So, it should not matter whether your offender is remorseful and regretful or cold and callous. You do not need your offender’s permission to forgive them. Does this sound easier said than done? If so, go to my website and under “The Project” tab, read the sections on “Your Letter is Written, Now What?” and “Handling Reponses.” You will find more information on how to deal with unwelcoming responses when you attempt to reconcile and forgive.
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.” (Colossians 3:13, NIV)